Do The Right Thing: Expand Social Security Benefits

Increase Social Security benefits, don't cut them. Senator Sherrod Brown agrees.

Duncan Black (Atrios) has been promoting the idea that since 90% (9 in 10) of the elderly live solely off of Social Security, we as a country should be expanding benefits and not cutting them to appease the angry Pete Peterson deficit hawk mob or the vacuous conservatives, who need their pound of flesh. It's finally taking hold as Sen. Sherrod Brown steps up and acts like a progressive.

You'll hear talk of tax and entitlement reform early next year as House and Senate budget conferees once again look for ways out of another fiscal panic. But before you can say "don't touch my Social Security," a group of progressives -- Democrats in Congress, the AFL-CIO, NOW, MoveOn -- is saying: Let's raise Social Security benefits. And Ohio Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will join them today.
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The proposal that Brown supports, promoted by Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Mark Begich of Alaska, would phase out that cap, so that high-wage earners would eventually keep paying no matter how much they earned. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee says this is only fair -- that if a teacher or truck driver earning $50,000 has to pay 6.2 percent of that income for Social Security taxes, why shouldn't someone earning $250,000?

Not coincidentally, this would be a counter-offer to an idea discussed by President Barack Obama and others who say something must be done to assure that Social Security survives as it collides with demographic and economic realities.

Why this will become very popular heading into 2014 and 2016: Seniors say, 'We can't afford Social Security cuts'

Greg Sargent interviewed Senator Brown yesterday:

With Washington chatter centered on a “grand bargain” or at least a “mini bargain” that might involve entitlement cuts, expanding Social Security might seem like a dead end. But when I pushed Brown on whether Dems would rally behind the idea — after all, Chained CPI is in the President’s budget — he insisted Dems should not cooperate in allowing a “Serious” center-right consensus that equates “fiscal responsibility” with cutting entitlement benefits to reign unchallenged.


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“The Serious People — with a capital S and a capital P — all have really good pensions and good health care and good salaries,” Brown said. “Raise the cap. There are ways we can bring a lot of money into Social Security. Some Democrats are a bit cowed by the Serious People.

David Dayen tweets this:

And I say Y-E-S!

NY Times: The Tightwire Act of Living Only on Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration, 23 percent of married couples and 46 percent of single people receive 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security. Furthermore, 53 percent of married couples and 74 percent of unmarried people receive half of their income or more from the program.

Such statistics represent a group of people forever trying to make ends meet at a time when their health may be declining, their friends dying and their ability to do things not what it used to be. According to a report by AARP, the lobby for people older than 50, three out of five familiesheaded by a retiree over 65 had no retirement savings.“It gets hard for a lot of people to imagine getting along on just the Social Security check, but obviously millions of people are doing it,” said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. “They’re really living month to month and relying on that check. Some people have a paid-off home, but they’re still dealing with upkeep, insurance, taxes, plus utilities and health care.”With an average monthly payment of $1,200 per individual (the actual amount is determined from one’s earnings record), nobody is getting rich on Social Security; that’s $14,400 a year, not much above the federal individual poverty line of $10,890, and payments aren’t adjusted by regional differences in the cost of living.

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